The moment undercover Israeli officers who had infiltrated a Palestinian protest turned their guns on demonstrators has been captured on camera, amid escalating tensions in the region. A series of videos captured from different angles show at least six members of the security forces disguised as Palestinian stone-throwers with face-covering keffiyehs as they mingle with about 100 rioters at the West Bank checkpoint of Bet El near Ramallah.
Suddenly, two of them tackle a protester, while the others pull out handguns and open fire, causing demonstrators to flee shouting "Mustarabiin" - a term referring to undercover soldiers dressed like Arabs. A Palestinian man is subsequently subjected to a violent beating as uniformed Israeli soldiers arrive to back up their plain-clothed colleagues.
AFP news agency, which had a cameraman at the scene, said three people were wounded, including one who was shot in the back of the head. Casualties numbered 18 according to Palestinian news agency Ma'an that reported most suffered injuries from rubber-coated steel bullets.
A video of the clashes released by Shehab News Agency appears to show an Israeli officer shooting at point-blank range into the thigh of a protester that is being beaten up and dragged away.
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Spokesman Peter Lerner confirmed the operation, saying officers involved belonged to the elite Duvdevan unit and arrested three Palestinians "who attacked the road to Jerusalem". He also posted a video of the clashes on Twitter.
In the first phase of the incident, the disguised officers incited the violence, urging rioters to hurl rocks at Israeli troops stationed nearby, Reuters bureau chief for Israel & Palestinian Territories Luke Baker reported.
The incident comes as tensions are running high in the West Bank and East Jerusalem following a series of deadly attacks. On 7 October a teenage Palestinian woman stabbed a Jewish man who subsequently shot her in retaliation in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been forced to cancel his trip to Germany due to the escalating violence and has barred all ministers and Jewish lawmakers from visiting the sensitive Temple Mount holy site in Jerusalem over security concerns.
Meanwhile the Palestinian Authority appealed to the UN Security Council to act to halt Israeli violations of international law, saying some 630 Palestinians have been injured by Israeli troops since 3 October.